Dust storms blew across the Persian Gulf region during mid-March, 2014. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured a true-color image of a massive plume of tan-colored dust blowing over the Persian Gulf on March 12.
Arising from well inland, the dust and sand sweeps hundreds of kilometers over coastal Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar before pouring over the Gulf and across Iran. Dust is so thick in northern Saudi Arabia that the land is completely obscured from view. In the south, thinner plumes also streak across the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
On March 12, the Gulf News reported that a dust storm was raging across the UAE, causing a drastic dip in visibility. Continued unstable weather, lasting at least five days, was also predicted, caused by a surface trough coming in from the Red Sea area. This was expected to bring both rain and gusty winds, continuing the risk of rising dust and sand across the region.
On March 15, the National Center for Meteorology and Seismology (UAE) reported fresh, strong winds over Saudi Arabia were picking up sand and dust as Shamal winds increased. The meteorological forecast for Abu Dhabi International Airport (UAE) for March 16 predicted northwest winds at 23-29 mph (37-47 km/h), carrying blowing dust and sand. The lowest visibility was expected to be near 1,000-1,500 m (3,280 – 4,920 ft).